British Diabetes Association Statement on Human and Animal Insulins, 1997
The British Diabetic Association's (BDA's) insulin campaign is committed to securing choice for people with diabetes for the kind of insulin that they use. The BDA is therefore committed to securing long-term availability of animal and human insulins, and provision of animal insulins in pen cartridges.
Novo Nordisk have stated that animal insulin will be available for as long as there is sufficient demand, having previously stated that they would make a commitment only to the turn of the century.
CP Pharmaceuticals (an English company) have stated that their beef insulins will be available indefinitely.
Lilly have stated that they have no plan to make animal insulin available in the UK.
The BDA has stepped up its campaign to ensure animal insulins are kept on the market by the pharmaceutical giants in the wake of a decision by Novo Nordisk to withdraw two types of lesser-used animal insulins for commercial reasons.
The BDA obtained commitments for continued production as long as there was adequate demand for animal insulins - preferred by a sizable minority of people to human insulins.
But fears are growing that commercial decisions like that of Novo Nordisk to withdraw part of their animal insulin range could threaten long-term prospects for continued production.
Now the British Diabetic Association has expressed its concern to Novo Nordisk over plans to stop production of Rapitard MC (pork and beef insulin) and Semitard MC (pork insulin) by the end of 1997, particularly as many of the 2,200 users are elderly people with diabetes.
The Association has also embarked on a Europe-wide survey to check out the strength of market demand for animal insulins. This research project will provide vital independent data which will be used to monitor user patterns that influence insulin suppliers. Developing closer links with its European counterparts should also enhance the BDA's campaigning activities.
"We believe people should be free to choose the insulin that suits them best. The British Diabetic Association has left the pharmaceutical industry in no doubt about the strength of feeling concerning the availability of animal insulins in the UK," said director general of the BDA Michael Cooper. "In 1994 we organized a 140,000 signature petition and a number of companies gave us assurances about future production. Now we need to go one step further and monitor the markets internationally to try and predict when problems might arise.
"There is good news in that Novo Nordisk has reaffirmed its commitment to the continued production of its core range of animal insulins," he said. "Their decision to run clinical trials and their efforts to contact and monitor people with diabetes coming off discontinued lines of insulin shows an awareness of people's sensitivities. We are also reassured by the decision of Novo Nordisk to invest in manufacturing facilities for animal insulins in Denmark. The Managing Director of Novo Nordisk, Hywel Evans, tells us that formulation of animal insulin has moved from Gentofte to Bagsvaerd where significant investment has been made in expanding the facility."
Following a top-level meeting with the British Diabetic Association, Novo Nordisk offered people with diabetes some further assurances.
Novo Nordisk has a commitment to carry on producing its 'core group' of animal insulins as long as there is a demand.
Re-investment in a new animal insulin manufacturing plant in Copenhagen has been agreed, underlining the company's commitment to continued production.
Clinical trials will be conducted in different parts of the country involving health care professionals and patients making the switch from discontinued animal insulin lines to other animal or human insulins. Clinical data gathered will provide the information necessary for doctors to help larger numbers of patients make the change at a later stage as smoothly as possible.
Managing director of Novo Nordisk, Hywel Evans, said: "I am pleased to reaffirm Novo Nordisk's commitment to animal insulin production. We have corporately and locally made significant investments in pork insulins which clearly indicate our commercial commitment to them. Novo Nordisk does indeed take seriously the issue of pork insulins."
- A sizable minority of people prefer animal insulins and claim human insulin causes them to experience loss of warning signals for hypoglycemia, though the BDA argues there is no direct evidence from clinical research of such a link. The BDA has funded several studies into loss of warning, monitors worldwide research and continues to investigate all aspects of hypoglycemia, but has not found any evidence of a link. Quite clearly, however, a lot of people have concerns and feel happier on animal insulin, and the BDA supports their right to chose the insulin that suits them best.
- The BDA funds diabetes research and provides information and support to people with diabetes and their families. The Association is a registered charity with 150,000 members including a medical and scientific section.